MILAN (VN) — Vincenzo Nibali has not won in nearly a full year, since taking the 2014 Tour de France trophy on the Champs-Élysées, but that does not seem to bother the easy-going Sicilian leader of Astana.
Nibali felt that in Liège-Bastogne-Liège he let those dear to him down so much that he apologized. The end-of-April race was sandwiched in between the Tirreno-Adriatico and Tour de Romandie stage races, which went poorly as well. After Romandie, he was left wondering why his legs were not spinning as well as the two pistons that have brought him the Tour, the Giro d’Italia, the Vuelta a España, and numerous other titles over the course of his career.
Remember, however, that this is the same Nibali that Astana general manager Alexander Vinokourov reportedly told, along with the rest of his Astana team in June 2014, that he was upset with their performances. “The Shark” from Messina responded with the national championship title and, a week later in the Tour de France, a stage win in Sheffield and the yellow jersey. With the exception of just one day, he held on to yellow all the way to the Champs-Élysées.
“I think I worked well [after Romandie], I’m on schedule,” Nibali told Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport on Friday. “And for that reason, I’m calm.”
Nibali did not watch much, but had he tuned in daily to the Giro d’Italia, his Astana team would have lifted his spirits further. The team looked the strongest over three weeks working, only lacking a captain to deal with Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo). However, second and third with Fabio Aru and Mikel Landa, the white jersey and five stage wins nearly makes up for not taking home the winner’s trophy.
Astana also appears to be riding with a newfound enthusiasm after winning its battle with the UCI to remain in the WorldTour. It was in one of its darkest periods last autumn when five of the riders under the Astana umbrella, including two veterans with the top team and a stagiare, tested positive for doping.
Even without wins, Nibali has reason to start the Critérium du Dauphiné on Sunday and look ahead to the Tour on July 4 with confidence. At the Dauphiné, Nibali will race against Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing), Joaquím Rodríguez (Katusha), and 2013 Tour winner Chris Froome (Sky).
If he has any problems, he will make tweaks at a mini-altitude camp in the Italian Alps, at Passo San Pellegrino, as he did last year ahead of the Tour.
“At the Dauphiné, I’ll face my rivals and adjust my training from there. All of it is retracing my 2014 schedule,” he continued.
“I won’t hold myself back if there’s a possibility. That’s clear. But experience has taught me that with the Tour de France in mind, it’s never smart to go too strongly in the Dauphiné. In a stage in 2012, I lost around nine minutes and then placed third in the Tour. Last year, though, I didn’t go so badly.”
The eight-day stage race will help Nibali polish off his training on the Spanish island of Tenerife and prepare him for the Tour. The Dauphiné features a team time trial this year, like the Tour does in stage nine, and four summit finishes. Some of those days, like the climb to Pra-Loup, use the same roads Nibali will ride defending his 2014 Tour title.